“I was young, but very keen. The medical was thorough, and during the lung test the Corporal had to bully me to hold my breath long enough to hold up the mercury in the tube. I was tallish, rather pale, and on the thin side. To my utter delight, the man whose job it was to gauge my fitness shook hands with me and wished me luck. I was in. The date was 3 June 1940 and I was eighteen”
So began Dad’s RAF career. And before he was out of those shorts, and before he had even climbed into a plane, he had two close shaves with death:
“On 27 July I was posted to RAF Finningley in Yorkshire where my duties were mainly on duty crew, flare path, and fire picket; for this was a bomber station with mainly Whitleys and Halifax. I was billeted with the station service police, but found them a nice bunch of chaps. I managed to learn Morse code in my spare time. I also had a narrow escape here; the first of many. I changed my mind in the last minute of accepting a flight in a 106 Squadron Hampden, which crashed near Scunthorpe. It is thought that the pilot lost control after being dazzled by searchlights on what was described as a Training Flight. All four crew were killed.
“During August I was posted to Babbacombe recruiting depot on the south coast of Devon, prior to going to Initial Training Wing for aircrew (ITW). The place was crawling with RAF personnel, mostly young and untrained, like me. On our very first night, we were greeted with bombs, and one hit our billet directly. Fortunately, we weren’t in at the time, but it felt like a near do. This was my first experience of the ‘shrieking’ bomb, with whistlers attached to the fins, and, boy, it was frightening. Every bomb coming down appeared to have my name written on it.”
From ‘Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night Fighter Pilot’ by Flt Lt Bryan Wild and Elizabeth Halls, with Joe Bamford, (2014) Fonthill Media. ‘Flying Blind’ is available on Amazon here or if you would like to buy direct from me and have £1.50 donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please go to my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/wheretheyserved and message me